MUD2MMO: Defining Hardcore and Casual Players

Trying to define these types of gamers is like trying to nail jello to a wall. But we’re going to give it a go anyway.

About pb-Tyger

MUD2MMO is a bi-weekly show talking about gaming culture. It's not a typical review or "go buy this game" show, we focus on the gamers, the industry, everything else. Come on by, enjoy the show.


  1. Great video Tyger. I consider myself somewhere in between casual and hardcore, but not quite either one. Gaming is probably my main hobby and I tend to splurge after work and on the weekends, but I don’t really play hardcore games like WoW or LoL.

    I’m more of a single player console guy with a few games in my PC steam library. Once in a while I’ll fire up the Xbox to play Halo online (with voice chat OFF) and have a good time knowing that 12 year old kids aren’t yelling at me.

    So yeah, not casual or hardcore. I’m just a gamer.

    • I am the same, it’s a really common demographic.

    • That’s kinda what I’d like to see more of, actually. “I just like games” and there’s nothing wrong with that sentiment.

    • I suppose it’s the same wit me. I mean I’ve probably played almost every iteration of Monster Hunter since if first came out on the PS2 like a decade ago, and I still wouldn’t even consider myself ‘good’ at that game. I also pawned my 3DS and MH Tri Ultimate because the damnable thing didn’t have online wifi even though it was perfectly within its specs to do so. Ugh, my seething hatred for Crapcom rears its ugly head yet again.

      Anyhoo, I more or less share Tyger’s viewpoint on the Hardcore, though really I think their identification would be more apt if changed to the ‘Fanatical’. After all, you can have two utter masters playing on the same server (ala paintball) but if one actually has a nurturing and dare I say sporting attitude about the game, suddenly those two masters have barely anything in common with each other. I mean it’s nice to be the best at any game, but having a community to share that love (particularly if the game hinges on how many people are playing it at once) makes that game all the more worthwhile. If trolls really think that the bottom line of their own individual enjoyment derived from stats and wins, they really are a small-minded bunch.

  2. Here’s the definitions I use.

    Hardcore Gamer
    1) Someone that plays a game, completes it, and moves on to another game.
    2) Someone that recognizes the problems in the gaming industry and rejects bad games.

    Casual Gamer
    1) Someone that plays only one or plays only a handful of games.
    2) Someone that happily play any cash-grab of a game.

    • Edit:
      Extending that concept someone an be a hardcore WoW player, or a hardcore Candy Crush player, but as a gamer they would be a casual. They wouldn’t move past “that one game” or “that one genre” to play other titles.

      • That’s what I meant by it being hard to define. People who post on “Elitist Jerks” (that’s the web page title.) would argue they are hardcore, even if they don’t play any other games. To study the minutia to get that extra 1 DPS or theorycrafting to get that ounce of whatever. And it’s hard to just say they’re “Casual”. then again, I know a lot of whales who happily spend money in one title, even if it’s a P2W scenario, and they’re not “casual” about the game they play.

        I think I get your message, however. But I’m not sure if a level of dedication means more games played / beaten. If someone’s playing a game they like, and they dedicate a lot of time to it, are they less dedicated than someone who is just hunting for gamerscore?

        • They would argue they are hardcore and they would be. Just hard core player of that game.

          I’m not looking so much at level of dedication as what they are dedicated to. If they are dedicated to one game they’re a hard core player of that game and a casual gamer. If they’re dedicated to experiencing games they’re a casual player of individual titles and a hard core gamer.

          Not hard core vs casual so much as player vs gamer.

          If someone is spending money in a P2W scenario, then they’re a zombie. Same for people that are hunting for gamerscore. These are people that want to brag about being better than someone else. I see that as completely separate from being a player or a gamer.

          A game is an experience. Whether experienced in fine detail (hard core player) or experienced as one of many possibilities (hard core gamer). A player focuses on one experience and refines it. A gamer just wants to play the game, see what type of experience they come away with, and do it again with another game.

          I’m in it for the various experiences. I want those experiences to be self contained. I see gamerscore and achievements as distractions from that experience. And I see games that focus on those aspects more than being an enjoyable experience to be a detriment to the industry.

          At least that’s my preference. There are other types of experiences that those aspects offer. To me that type of experience just isn’t an enjoyable one.

  3. I think part of the problem is only having 2 categories. Why not have 3, or more? For example:

    Casual – Mostly sticks to a handful of facebook games or Bejeweled etc. The sort of players anyone who is offended by this term probably pictures.

    Hobby – Gaming is a large portion of their recreation. They have a decent collection of games and a moderate pool of knowledge about the medium.

    Hardcore – The min/maxers. Most of their life revolves around their games(s) of choice. Rarely tolerant of noobs and casuals.

    Even with these categories the lines are heavily blurred, but you get the idea.

    • To be honest, I’d prefer *no* categories, because technically, we’re all gamers. Unless you play a pro league we’re all the same really. The labels only exist to make one side feel better. It’s why the terms are so liquid, and why it’s hard to really define them. That and “casuals” play League of Legends just as “hardcores” play Farmville. I know people who “hardcore” play only one game, and they’re happy. I know casuals who have steam libraries that make me stare and marvel.

      IMHO, we’re gamers, the difference is in how important and how exclusive people need to feel. (If that makes sense, it’s been a hell of a day)

      • Well I’m not saying the categories SHOULD exist, but they do, and there isn’t much we can do to make them go away. I was just suggesting a way to improve them.

  4. Definition is entirely straightforward and simple

    Hardcore player is one that delves past the surface of the game. Learns the ins and outs, studies the mechanics.

    Casual player is one that is content to play the game at face value. isn’t interested in learning the details of how something works nor figuring out the best ways to make use of the games systems.

    Simple example: Harcore player is one likely to min/max their builds in an RPG, a casual player is one likely to use whatever gear or skills they think look/seem the coolest.

    • The only problem there is it’s pretty extreme examples. Let’s say I’m someone who plays he game at face value, but I happen to “get” how the mechanics work? It’s also a lot more subjective too. There’s a lot of players who don’t care about spell interactions but know a lot about fight mechanics. Are they hardcore or casual? It all depends on the perspective of the person throwing the label at them. There’s a lot more shades of grey in play, which is why I mentioned “tribalism”.

      • Doesn’t seem that subjective to me. Either a player cares enough to intentionally invest in learning the mechanics of the game and how to use them or they don’t. You can pick up a lot just by playing casually but that knowledge doesn’t make you Hardcore. You can reach a point where you might turn hardcore. Say you start out playing Path of Exile casually. You take the passives that seem useful, you use the skills that seem cool and you wear the gear that looks neat.

        After playing 100 hours of it (or whatever other arbitrary amount of time purely for the sake of argument) you may have figured out that x,y and z skill work really well together and one type of passive line is very important while another is not really useful at all. At that point a casual player might change skills but wouldn’t really have any desire to delve any deeper as they wouldn’t be concerned with (or possibly capable of) doing the content that requires that depth of understanding and performance. But a casual player may decide they find it really interesting and want to do that hard content, thus intentionally start to learn more about the nuts and bolts of things – why something is the way it is and how things work – to build on the knowledge they passively accumulated. At that point they are no longer a casual player of the game as they have surpassed a casual level of investment in it.

        I had friends that played classes in World of Warcraft for a couple years who were very casual. They were knowledgeable of their class, they knew far more than maybe even a player with average familiarity with said class simply due to the amount of time invested. However they were still casual, they didn’t follow patch notes, they didn’t read forums or theory craft, they had picked up some of the better rotations but they didn’t understand why those rotations were better and didn’t really care to understand why. They gemmed for the right things but only because someone had told them too and not because they really knew why they needed X percent Chance to Hit or Y percent armor value or Z percent expertise. In short, while they had ample experience, a hardcore player could surpass their knowledge of the class likely within a month because a hardcore player actively seeks out that knowledge instead of passively learning it.

  5. So the more hard core can lower down their gear and expectation to make the casual feel better. What about the more casual players? I mean the hard core should not be the one to be expected to play more for the causal player all the time or act as a tutorial for seven or eight player.

    • No, your right. I wouldn’t expect high-end players to coddle every opponent every time. But there’s a time and a place for everything. As I said in the vid, when I realized I was “that guy”, I took it down a notch. Casual players who have fun will ramp up to meet you, eventually, but not if you demolish them on the first outing. If the player is that good, they should be able to mentor and not just crush.

      that and highly experienced people can find high-end matches for themselves, and they often do. But if there’s new players (IE: Playing T1 matches when you’re normally playing T7), the “hardcore” player is now an ambassador for the game. Everything they do is now a representation of the game as a whole. “Yeah, the game mechanics were cool, but the community sucked so much that after a game I uninstalled.” For some people they say ” good riddance, we didn’t need them anyway.” For others they realize that a community stagnates without fresh players.

      Just ‘sayin.

      • My point is that for it to work it needs to be a two way. Yes scaring away new players can make the community stagnates but if the causal does not take effort to learn the game themselves then the community can stagnate. A mentor can only do so much.

  6. Make the paintball references, Tyger. You cannot deny them…

    • There’s an old saying? “When you only have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”? I’m trying to NOT do that. Seriously, this is the third or fourth time I’ve seen this pattern happen in similar situations. History isn’t just a dusty book, it teaches things if people look.

  7. I just wanted to say that I really enjoy watching your videos. Even when I don’t quite agree with what you’re saying, you always make it clear where you’re coming from and how you came to form your opinions on the subject. You also don’t try to force your opinions on anyone else. You just present your opinion, explain your reasoning, show what facts you can, and leave us to decide whether to agree or disagree.

    I suppose a shorter way of putting it is that I enjoy your videos because they’re thought provoking, rather than thought repressing…

  8. FWIW, I’ve always seen it as:

    Casual gamer — one who enjoys the mechanics and (where appropriate) camaraderie of playing games.

    Hardcore gamer — one who is not having fun unless one’s score is at least some minimal level

    Nothing wrong with either one and, to be fair, it’s more a continuum than an either/or, but when players from either end of the continuum get together, they don’t always mix.

  9. When people call themselves hardcore gamers, it always bothers me, because whatever the definition, it probably means that they attach a lot of pride to their past time, and probably sink a lot of their time into it, too. It’s great when that person is a cyber athlete or a caster or a reviewer – someone who can make a career out of this, otherwise it’s just sad.

  10. I love that Chesire Cat on your screens! In fact, I use this quote as a signature in a lot of forums.
    Only seeing that put a smile on my face.

    But, on the subject of your video…its really more a lot of washed out grey than black and white in my opinion. And with all the games I tried, I usually enjoyed staying in this grey area the most. There are only a handful games where I would really look into the mechanics and try to understand them, but in most games I had the most fun trying to grasp the basic concepts and play with the style that is the most fun to me, rather than whats the best or most efficient.

  11. A word about casuals: My gf hasn’t played anything since Super Mario 1 on the NES, she has been playing Hearthstone since 3 days ago with a new account and she now consistently beats me.

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